Cranky Hanke’s Weekly Reeler September 9-15: Visit Jimmy’s Hall Learning to Drive

In Theaters.

It would not be unreasonable to expect that this week will be an improvement over last week in terms of mainstream offerings. Not unreasonable, no. But will we get such a thing? When the big offering is the purported “comeback” of M. Night Shyamalan…well, what do you think?

I should explain that while there are two “art” titles this week, only one of them was made available for review. I don’t know why, but it’s probably because it’s from a new distributor.




The one film I know is of note this week is Ken Loach’s Jimmy’s Hall — starting Friday at The Carolina. This more or less came out of nowhere (it wasn’t on the local radar till last week) and it turns out to be a winner, which actually came as something of a surprise to me. It’s not that I don’t appreciate Loach’s talents or his aims, but I’ve rarely much liked his films. Well, this one I not only liked, I came close to loving. It’s just as political, just as pointed as his earlier work, but it’s perhaps his warmest and most accessible work yet. The review is in this week’s Xpress.




The unscreened art film is Learning to Drive — starting Friday at The Carolina and the Fine Arts. It reunites star Ben Kingsley with his Elegy (2008) director Isabel Coixet, and this time teams him with Patricia Clarkson. Sight-unseen, I think we may safely conclude that this is Boomer-bait — perhaps even beyond that. Here’s the official write-up: “Isabel Coixet’s slice-of-life comedy/drama Learning to Drive stars Patricia Clarkson as Wendy, a middle-ages book critic who is shattered when her husband Ted (Jake Weber) leaves her. In order to visit her daughter (Grace Gummer), who lives upstate, Wendy begins taking driving lessons from Darwan (Ben Kingsley) an American citizen originally from India who makes a living as a cabbie and giving driving lessons. The two strike-up a friendship that helps her learn to take control of her life, and him adjust to his new life after an arranged marriage. Learning to Drive screened at the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival.” The only slightly — and it’s only slight — worrisome aspect of this is that it took nearly a year for it to get distribution. We shall see.


90 min


In the sort of mainstream realm is Michael Polish’s 90 Minutes in Heaven — opening Friday at Epic of Hendersonville and Regal Biltmore Grande. What is it? Well, it’s a faith-based opus starring Hayden Christensen as Don Piper, a minister who was considered dead for 90 minutes after a car crash — and who later wrote a book about how he spent those 90 minutes in heaven. The film, you may note, is being touted as “Based on the Incredible True Story,” which only works as truth-in-advertising if you accept Piper’s story as…er gospel. Or at least demonstrably factual, which limits the audience to a pretty specific one. Kate Bosworth — coincidentally, the director’s wife — also stars. It has not been screened for critics.




Theoretically mainstream is David M. Rosenthal’s The Perfect Guy — which at this point only down as playing at Carmike 10, starting Friday. The film is listed as a “wide release,” but it’s being marketed as what can only be called a niche film. (The niche in this case being black audiences.) It’s supposed to be a mystery thriller and is described with this: “After a painful breakup, successful lobbyist Leah Vaughn jumps into a passionate relationship with a charming stranger. When her ex-boyfriend resurfaces in her life she has to figure out who she should trust and who she should fear.” It stars Sanaa Lathan, Michael Ealy, Morris Chestnut, Charles S. Dutton, and Tess Harper. Also not screened for critics.




Finally — and also not screened for critics — we have M. Night Shyamalan’s The Visit — starting Friday (with the usual Thu. night screenings) at The Carolina, Epic of Hendersonville, Regal Biltmore Grande, and UA Beaucatcher. This PG-13 horror film — which sounds more like a horror fairy tale — is (or was) supposed to be a return of sorts for Shyamalan. That it comes from Blumhouse bodes ill for us. That all you seem to have to do is announce who made it to kill any interest in it bodes ill for it. Universal says: “The terrifying story of a brother and sister who are sent to their grandparents’ remote Pennsylvania farm for a weeklong trip. Once the children discover that the elderly couple is involved in something deeply disturbing, they see their chances of getting back home are growing smaller every day.” You may note that they do not mention the director.

This week we lose The Diary of a Teenage Girl. The Fine Arts splits Mistress America (7:20, 9:20 Late shows Fri. and Sat.) with Phoenix (1:20, 4:20). The Carolina keeps Mistress America for a full schedule.

Special Screenings




The Thursday Horror Picture Show has David Lynch’s Dune (1984) at 8 p.m. on Thu., Sept. 10 in Theater Six at The Carolina. World Cinema is showing the winner of this year’s Media Arts Festival Pagdi: The Honour on Fri., Sept. 11 at 8 p.m. at Phil Mechanic Studios, 109 Roberts St., River Arts District (upstairs in the Railroad Library). The festival continues the following day, Sept. 12 with Documentary winners: 1 p.m.- 3 p.m; Experimental winners:  3 p.m.- 4 p.m.; Short Drama winners:  4 p.m.- 6 p.m.; More Short Drama and Animation winners: 7:30 p.m.-10:30 p.m. The Hendersonville Film Society is screening Martin Ritt’s The Long, Hot Summer (1958) on Sun., Sept. 13 at 2 p.m. in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lake Pointe Landing in Hendersonville. The Asheville Film Society is running Claudette Colbert and Louise Beavers in John M. Stahl’s original 1934 version of Imitation of Life on Tue., Sept. 15 at 8 p.m. in Theater Six at The Carolina. More on all titles in this week’s Xpress — with complete reviews in the online edition.


Really, the best thing this week is Alfonso Gomez-Rejon’s reworking of The Town That Dreaded Sundown (I’m surprised it wasn’t already out), but there’s also The Age of Adaline if you must know.


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About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress from December 2000 until his death in June 2016. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

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19 thoughts on “Cranky Hanke’s Weekly Reeler September 9-15: Visit Jimmy’s Hall Learning to Drive

  1. Ken Hanke

    For anyone who cares, it turns out that The Perfect Guy is also at Regal Biltmore Grande.

  2. Edwin Arnaudin

    The runtime on 90 Minutes in Heaven is, of course, 121 minutes. Where are those remaining 31 minutes spent?

  3. Ken Hanke

    The Variety review for The Visit contains this chilling statement: “In a way, it’s a relief to see Shyamalan set aside the studio-system excesses of “The Last Airbender” and “After Earth” and get down and dirty with a found-footage-style indie crafted in the spirit of producer Jason Blum’s single location chillers. (Blum actually joined the project after filming wrapped, but it subscribes to his patented “Paranormal Activity” playbook to a T.) “

  4. Zygote1972

    Sorry if this is a redundant, but I am aware there are several fans here. This week while doing my semi regular check for it, Byzantium is on Netflix streaming. Looking forward to my first viewing.

      • Zygote1972

        I thoroughly enjoyed “Only Lovers Left Alive”. Reading your review and comments there lead me to your Byzantium review. I have been looking for a reasonable streaming option for it ever since.

  5. Edwin Arnaudin

    Two new titles of note available on Netflix Streaming today: Asghar Farhadi’s About Elly and the recent Madame Bovary with Mia Wasikowska, Ezra Miller and Paul Giamatti.

    • Ken Hanke

      Are you actually recommending these or merely suggesting they might be worthwhile?

      • Edwin Arnaudin

        Suggesting. I think highly of Farhadi’s A Separation and even more so of The Past, so I’ve been awaiting Elly‘s arrival.

          • Edwin Arnaudin

            One day I’ll watch this Gemma Bovary thing and let you know if it’s worthwhile.

  6. Big Al

    I initially balked at Ben Kingsley playing yet another Indian, but I enjoyed “Gandhi” and drool over Clarkson, so I figured “Learning to Drive” could not be too bad. Turns out it was awesome. It reminded me of the experience I had with Clarkson’s previous “Cairo Time”.

    Unfortunately, like the underwhelming “Cairo Time”, the scant turnout at the FAT for “Learning..” indicates to me that this film will be gone before the digital ink of your review of it is dry.

    • Ken Hanke

      Well, Kingsley’s father was Indian, so it’s not perhaps a stretch for him. I can’t go as far as awesome, but I found it pleasing and more thoughtful than I’d expected. The 12:05 show at The Carolina was not poorly attended, but neither was it packed. Still, I kind of expect a second week out of it there.

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